Weekend Reads: Reconciliation and redemption
by Maria Baer & Sharla Megilligan
Posted 2/21/15, 05:20 pm
hand in Hand: The Beauty of God’s Sovereignty and Meaningful Human Choice
By Randy Alcorn
Warriors in the long-suffering battle between Calvinists and Arminians should lay down their arms, says Randy Alcorn in hand in Hand (Multnomah, 2014), because they’re on the same side.
Alcorn’s subtitle sets great expectations, teaching readers to learn, finally, how to reconcile the complex Beauty of God’s Sovereignty and Meaningful Human Choice. But while the book offers well-developed and helpful ways to organize the debate, with repetitive cautions to maintain respect for one another, Alcorn doesn’t offer a Holy Grail answer. Instead, the book methodically explains the popular arguments for and against Calvinism (which emphasizes God’s sovereignty) and Arminianism (which favors human free will). Alcorn does an admirable job debunking misconceptions about each camp, and like any good pastor, he relies heavily on real-life illustrations to make the complex ideas more accessible. He says he’s a four-point Calvinist, but leaves room for non-heretical differing opinions.
For readers who want a quick, easy-to-understand primer on the centuries-old debate about predestination and free will, hand in Hand offers a helpful 30,000-foot view. But the book is mostly a series of quotations from non-Alcorns. And, indeed, near the end he concedes, “When it comes to sovereignty and free will, it’s a fair assumption that the best thinking has already been done.”
I wish he had gone more into the compelling and confusing verse often weaponized in the debate—“the LORD hardened the heart of Pharaoh” (Exodus 9:12)—but at the end of each chapter Alcorn provides excellent guides to those who want to dig deeper. —Maria Baer
Recovering Redemption: A Gospel-Saturated Perspective on How to Change
By Matt Chandler and Michael Snetzer
Recovering Redemption: A Gospel-Saturated Perspective on How to Change (B&H Publishing Group, 2014) presents a personal and practical view of the biblical story of redemption. Matt Chandler and Michael Snetzer use personal testimonies to demonstrate God’s redemptive work in action. The tree on the cover sends a powerful message: Redemption takes us from death to life.
Emphasizing the power of God’s love and grace, the authors focus on this theme: We are not enough and become weary trying to be enough. “What’s broken in us … is beyond our ability to fix,” they write. “All attempts to redeem it by ourselves are doomed to futility and failure. We need God.” The authors point out that we cannot fully appreciate our need for redemption until we grasp the depth of our sin, and we must bring sin and hurt into the light: “Bad news is the backdrop against which good news really shines. So let there be darkness. And let there be light.”
Recovering Redemption uses an olive tree as a living picture of the gospel: “… even if the above-ground structure completely dies … a living tree can actually resurrect from one that was totally destroyed and decayed.” The authors believe that as we are rooted in God’s redemptive work, we are freed from the weight of sin: “The canceling of your debt by the forgiving blood of the Lamb means the guilt from all your sin is gone. You’ve been pardoned. You’re free.” When we embody this truth, we walk in freedom and fullness of life. —Sharla Megilligan
Maria is a graduate of the WORLD Journalism Institute's mid-career course.
Sharla is a graduate of the WORLD Journalism Institute's mid-career course.